Monday 29 May 2017

Marsh Fritillaries.

Probably, like most of us interested in wildlife, I set myself targets in January for species that I hope to see during the year. Most of these targets I miss as time restraints hold me back, or the weather goes bad at the wrong time. Anyway, the week before my Norfolk break I was trying to fit lots in including a trip to Wiltshire to see the Marsh Fritillary, a species that I have failed to see for the past 3 years. It was looking as though I was going to run out of time again, and reports from the site I was hoping to go to were not encouraging either. On our Wednesday walk I spoke to Nigel about where to go and he suggested his normal site. However, on the Wednesday night I checked the internet and the best bet looked like Martin Down which seemed to be having a much better year than normal for this species. It also had the added bonus of being a particularly good site for Turtle Dove and Burnt Orchids. As I went to bed on the Wednesday I still wasn't convinced that I would make the trip, but waking up at 5.30 I decided to go for it. Leaving home at 7am I managed to avoid the worst of the traffic and I arrived at Martin Down at 8.30. By 9am I was looking at my first Marsh Fritillaries, and even better, I was on my own. Walking around the site I must have seen 80-100 of these delightful butterflies, with most of them being in pretty good condition. Several Small Blue were also seen in the area. With it being mainly sunny, but with enough cloud cover to stop them being too active I managed several pleasing images, and certainly better than I have managed in the past. All this whilst listening to the sound of several Turtle Doves too. By around 11 am a few more people had turned up, but by then I had seen and photographed plenty so I could just enjoy this fabulous reserve.

Male Marsh Fritillary.

Female Marsh Fritillary. 

A poser of a Marsh Fritillary.

Marsh Fritillary underside.

In the end I also had 3 very good views of the Turtle Doves, probably all different birds. There was also a very good showing of Burnt Orchids on the reserve, although apparently, not as good as most years!! These though made our sighting of this plant locally the previous day look pretty pathetic!!

A Triple Burnt Orchid display.

A bunch of 8 Burnt Orchids!!

A Bloody-nosed Beetle larva was also seen nearby.

Bloody-nosed Beetle larva.

As I finished much earlier than expected at Martin Down, rather than driving straight home I decided to head for Plaistow to check out the 1st brood of Wood Whites. Unfortunately, about 5 miles before I arrived it started to rain. I decided to carry on though and as I walked along the rides I started to get very wet as the rain got heavier. Fortunately, I found 4 roosting butterflies easily. The light however was by now very poor. I struggled to get any decent shots of them, not helped by the water dripping off the trees above, but I did just about get a shot of one of the butterflies as it roosted on Greater Stitchwort. I was wondering whether to wait to see if the rain would stop. If I had I would still have been waiting the next morning!!

A wet Wood White on Greater Stitchwort. I was even wetter!!

Saturday 27 May 2017

Dragon's Den.

A few days before my short Norfolk break Nigel and I had a stroll over the local Downs hoping to see a few of the local specialities. Adonis Blues were quite evident and I was pleased to get my first Small Blues of the year too. However, it was a strong emergence from a local pond, of Broad-bodied Chasers that proved to be the highlight of the walk. We had missed many Emperor Dragonflies with well over 20 exuviae seen in the vegetation of the pond, that was apart from one Emperor that hadn't emerged properly and the wings hadn't formed, but there were still several of the Chasers that hadn't at that time flown and were posing for the camera, both male and female.

Newly emerged male Broad-bodied Chaser with exuviae.

Newly emerged Female Broad-bodied Chaser.

Newly emerged Male Broad-bodied Chaser.

A Spider with a ten course meal!!

I also came across a female Yellow Belle moth at a site that this moth was unknown from. Some distance away we also checked out small numbers of the earlier form of Burnt Orchids.

Female Yellow Belle.

Burnt Orchid.

Sunday 21 May 2017

A Spring of Pearls.

I only managed a few visits to see the beautiful Pearl-bordered Fritillaries this year, although I have been pleased with some of the photos that I managed to get. The first visit was unexpected as I had planned, and arrived at my local patch to find that it was far too chilly for anything to fly in the breeze. Rather than head home I decided to head out to the relative shelter of the wood. My timing was perfect as almost as soon as I had arrived I spotted a female that had just emerged, and was mated before she had flown. This mating went on for 42 minutes, and it was the also the first female that had been seen at this site this year. Each visit I made I had some good sightings and photo opportunities. 

Mating Pearl-bordered Fritillaries.

The pupa case that the female had emerged from.

Female Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary on Bluebell.

Male Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

Roosting Pearl-bordered Fritillaries.

Friday 19 May 2017

Down To The Waterline.

With all types of  wildlife macro photography wind is probably the most difficult element that the weather throws our way to cope with. This is perhaps even more of a case when trying to photograph Demoiselles and Mayflies as these delicate species do get blown around. We have had so few calm days recently, but with the promise of a calm morning earlier in the week I was up before 5am to make the most of it. I drove to the river where I was hoping to find the Beautiful Demoiselle, (Callopteryx virgo), however, the season has moved on further than I had expected as the Banded Demoiselle, (Callopteryx splendens), was already flying. 2 females and 5 males were seen. The weather conditions were also favourable for the delicate Mayflies with many of these beauties seen. A very worthwhile early start to the day.

The first Mayfly of the day.

Male Banded Demoiselle.

Male Banded Demoiselle.


Later in the day I managed to complete a 1st brood Wall Brown count on a regular circuit that I have been doing since 2009. By now the wind had picked up which didn't help too much. However, I did see 40 individuals which is my 2nd highest 1st brood count. The 2nd brood is generally much better so I'm hoping for a really good display of these butterflies come July and August.

Tuesday 16 May 2017

A Very Grizzlie Day.

On Saturday another butterfly survey resulted in another Grizzled Skipper ab. taras. This one I managed to photograph as it nectared on Bugle. 

Grizzled Skipper ab. taras.

Other notable sightings were my first Broad-bodied Chaser of the year as well as my 2nd Painted Lady, several of the latter seen since then too. It seems there has been a bit of a migration going on. I also saw 4 or 5 of the superb micro moth Olethreutes arcuella. These little gems are only about 7mm long so are not easy to follow when they fly. After a bit of patience I eventually found one that posed well on a leaf.

Olethreutes arcuella.

The biggest surprise however was when I flushed a Nightjar in the wood. 

I then headed back to Seaford where James had offered to show me an area where he regularly sees Grizzled Skippers going to roost. Although we actually only saw the one Grizzlie it was a very fresh individual and it did pose particularly well for us as it sat up high on some grass taking advantage of the late afternoon sunshine. A few other butterflies were also seen including a couple of Wall Brown and Common Blue and very large numbers of Small Heath. My thanks to James for showing me a special site.

Female Grizzled Skipper.

Monday 15 May 2017

The Evening Argus.

Having seen several Brown Argus going to roost on Thursday, just before the heavy rainstorm I decided to have another go on Friday as there was some late afternoon sunshine forecast. I arrived early afternoon to the area, having seen en route my first Hummingbird Hawk Moth of the year that nectared just by me briefly. On arrival at the site it was feeling pretty cool with a stiff breeze and heavy clouds and it wasn't long before I had found a roosting Grizzled Skipper. In the distance I could see the clouds were thinning so I kept close so that I could get some shots of the Skipper as it opened its wings when the sun came out. Every time I looked up blue sky seemed to be getting closer, but it was well over an hour before the weather warmed up enough for the butterfly to wake up. Of course, when eventually it did I was to find there was quite a bit of wing damage, so it was a case of wasted time!!

Roosting male Grizzled Skipper.

By now the sun had arrived, and the butterflies soon showed themselves including my first Adonis Blue of the year. A Green Hairstreak was also seen briefly. A nest of young black moth larva on one of the bushes that I hope will prove to be Lackey Moth larva. These are superbly coloured larva when they grow so I will keep a good eye on them. Nearby were some nearly fully grown Brown-tail Moth larva.

Brown-tail Moth larva.

As the afternoon went on quite a few Brown Argus were flying around and it wasn't long before they started to land on the tall grasses preparing to go to roost. Every time the sun came out they would open their wings to get as much heat as possible from the late afternoon sun. This gave some great photographic opportunities with these tiny, but beautiful butterflies.

Male Brown Argus preparing to roost.

As the evening arrived all the butterflies closed up for the day with the Brown Argus roosting on the grass stems and heads and the Dingy Skippers on seed-heads.

Roosting Brown Argus.

Roosting Dingy Skipper.

Saturday 13 May 2017

By The River.

On Thursday I was hoping for a chance to get close to the Beautiful Demoiselle as well as the fabulous Mayflies. I went to my usual river bank but apart from 2 flighty Demoiselles I drew a blank. I then decided to head for the hills to see how the Wall Brown was doing in a different hotspot to my usual site. The weather at this point decided to go downhill so I only saw 6 Wall Brown. However, a big surprise was a Scarce Chaser that flew past and settled in the grass. This was presumably well away from where it had emerged. It did give me the idea though to try another spot on the river and it was here that I had much more luck. Only 1 more Beautiful Demoiselle was seen but at last a few Mayflies appeared. I was following one Mayfly when I suddenly spotted a newly emerged male Hairy Dragonfly on Cow Parsley. 

Hairy Dragonfly.

Hairy Dragonfly.

I also eventually photographed 2 different Mayflies. Very difficult in the windy conditions with these delicate insects.

Two different Mayflies.

Later in the day I headed out on the patch and was pleased to see my first Common Blues and Brown Argus of the year. Several of each were seen and as the afternoon went on the the heavy clouds built up roosting started early. 5 roosting Dingy Skippers were also spotted. 

Common Blue on Forget-me-not.

Roosting Common Blue.

Roosting Brown Argus.

Roosting Dingy Skipper.

One of the best days so far this year!!

Thursday 11 May 2017

The Annual Old Boys Outing.

Yesterday Nigel and I had our annual trip over to Kent looking for Duke of Burgundy and assorted orchids. Although I had already seen the Duke in West Sussex it is always good to get over to the ancient woodland where they live in Kent as there are always other good insects about including beetles and various moths including the brilliant micro White-spotted Sable.
Several Dukes were seen in the first woodland with males as well as a couple of females observed egg laying.

Male Duke of Burgundy.

4 Duke of Burgundy eggs on Cowslip leaf.

Common Carpet.

After leaving the first wood we moved on to one of the famous orchid woods of Kent, a wood I last visited around 8 years ago. Several orchids normally found here were still not in flower but plenty of Lady and Fly orchids were seen.

A beautifully patterned Lady Orchid.

Fly Orchid.

We also saw 2 fabulous ichneumon wasps that Nigel managed to get shots of, check out his blog (East Sussex Wanderer) soon, to see them. Certainly a great day out. Roll on next year!!

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Hairy Dragonflies to Orchids.

During my butterfly survey over the weekend I had the opportunity to photograph both male and female Hairy Dragonflies. These early season dragons are both hairy, presumably to keep them warm in the cooler early season. Especially useful this year I would think!!

Female Hairy Dragonfly.

Male Hairy Dragonfly.

The past couple of days Pen has taken me away to make sure I remember that I'm a little bit older!! On the way I wanted to show her the tremendous display of Bluebells at Abbotts Wood. It's been a few years since she has managed to see them. Unfortunately the weather was too poor for the Pearl-bordered Fritillaries to fly so I couldn't show them to her. The only insect of interest was a very smart Wasp Beetle which posed very well.

Wasp Beetle.

Then on the way to the hotel we stopped off at a churchyard where there was a great display of Green-winged Orchids with several hundred plants.

Green-winged Orchid.

Pale form of Green-winged Orchid.

3 Pale Form of Green-winged Orchids among normal coloured plants.